— Last month Templeton resident Vikki McPartland posted her gripe on Nextdoor.com
. What she thought were Blue Jays were heckling her family home,aggressively attacking and pecking her windows all day long. She told her fellow residents that it was starting to drive her crazy. Asking for a peaceful solution, thirteen people responded.
Some offered tips to keep them from banging: clean the windows, hang a small mirror near the nest, or hang a bird feeder away from the window.
One resident suggested buying a fake owl and moving it around each day to scare the birds away. Another thought nets or tinsel strips from the hardware store or the plastic strips with prongs for the window sills might work. Many other neighbors agreed that the birds were also testing their patience and straining their sanity.
Yet other residents praised and cherished the spring season and all it’s bounty, including mating birds and pretty songs and the bird-loving websites all tout the high intelligence of the blue hecklers.
Meg Crockett of Pacific Wildlife Care said she would not know if the bird in question was in fact a California Scrub Jay without a photo, but her Center Director sent a good link for preventative measures: https://dengarden.com/misc/why-is-robin-attacking-my-window
. The article states scientists believe some birds attack windows during spring mating season because they believe that the birds attack their reflection in the glass, thinking it’s a rival bird.
We checked in with McPartland to see if the bird issue had resolved. Apparently she said the scrub jay harassment has tapered off a bit, but now two of the smaller birds are banging on their back windows. “We are wondering if they are the babies that were in the nest we decided not to disturb, McPartland said. “How fast they learned from their folks if that’s the case! We are tiring of the bird poop we now how everywhere more than anything.”
A bird lover named Terrance Hodgins wrote on feederwatch.org
, “I have a stainless steel chair frame that I left in the backyard. I brought the seat cushion inside to keep it from getting soaked by the rain, but left the frame outside. The Jays figured out how to pick up black oil sunflower seeds and insert them into the screw holes in the frame and twist, and crack the seed shell. I don’t know if that officially qualifies as tool use, but it sure looks like it to me.”
According to the KCET article “California has Two New Bird Species. One’s in Your Yard Right Now” by Chris Clarke, the state is home to two new bird species of the familiar Western Scrub- Jay (now added to the 2016 edition of the American Ornithologist’s Checklist of North American Birds): the California Scrub-Jays and the Woodhouse-Scrub jay. According to Clarke, the California Scrub-Jay, “raucous, engaging members of the crow family” are making their presence known in Santa Barbara, and consequently Templeton as well.
"We have two type of blue-colored birds out this way: Scrub Jays and Stellar Jays (ones with the spiky heads)," said Marcelle at Pacific Wildlife Care, who added that Bluebirds are East Coast birds. Those at Pacific Wildlife Care said whenever birds are pecking at mirrors (on cars) or the chrome on car bumpers, it's the reflection that causes them to think there is an "interloper" in their territory.
The Audubon Society lists the bird’s conservation status as healthy overall and increasing in the northern part of range. Audubon lists the California Scrub-Jay as the “blue jay” of parks, neighborhoods and riverside woods near the Pacific Coast,” but they have a presence in parts of Mexico and Central Florida.
An adult California Scrub-Jay (which people sometime confuse with a Blue Jay) is a “large and lanky songbird with a long tail and stout bill,” according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Adults are rich azure blue and gray above, with a clean, pale underside broken up by a partial blue necklace,” while the juvenile California scrub-jays are “gray above with a blue tail and bits of blue coming in on the wings.” According the the lab life history of the bird, its habitat is scrub, oak, woodlands and suburban yards of the Pacific Seaboard, among other places. They eat an omnivorous diet: mostly spiders and snails and fruit during spring and summer and switch to nuts and seeds during fall and winter, especially acorns.
For plant material, scrub-jays eat acorns and grass seeds; sunflower seeds and peanuts at feeders; as well as cultivated corn, almonds, walnuts, and cherries.
Why they choose to nest near Templeton home window sills, according to the lab, is because their nest site (chosen by the male or female bird) choices are ideally low in an oak tree, or in laurel sumac, bay, madrone or poison oak — all prevalent in Templeton backyards.
The Cornell website describes California Scrub-Jay behavior as “animated, vocal and playful,” moving about in bold hops and lunges and viewing the scenery with sharp turns of the head.
“Nest predators include raccoons, weasels, skunks, squirrels, king snakes, gopher snakes, rattlesnakes, magpies, crows, and jays. Predators of adults and fledglings include bobcats, house cats, accipiters, and Great Horned Owls.” So maybe there are some other options for the “fake predator” method.
The Cornell website offers readers this backyard tip to attract the California Scrub-Jay: “California Scrub-Jays are fond of sunflower seeds and peanuts at feeders. If you have dense shrubs or small trees in your yard, a pair might build a nest.”
But if Templeton residents are more interested in deterring California Scrub-Jay visits, they may want to try some tips from the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management, a division of four universities, under the direction of skilled biologists and wildlife specialists. Among some less appealing damage prevention and control methods (such as gassing, trapping and shooting) they advise the “exclusion” method: placing bird netting over fruit trees, vines and gardens to exclude jays from the immediate area.
According to the dengarden.com
article, many of McPartland’s neighbor’s suggestions were spot on, and another idea to deter the birds would to stick decals to the window to break up the bird’s reflection. Another idea from Texas Parks and Wildlife Service is to use a fluorescent marker pen grid (highlighter).